If the Houston Texans are going to repeat as AFC South champions, they're going to have to do it with one of their best defensive players on the sideline until December.
The NFL announced on Wednesday that linebacker Brian Cushing has been suspended 10 games without pay for violating the league's policy on performing-enhancing substances.
The suspension means that Cushing won't be back on the field until after the Texans' Week 10 game against the Ravens. Cushing will be allowed to return to practice on Nov. 28, and he'll be eligible to return to game action on Dec. 3.
The reason that Cushing got hit with such a long suspension is because this is his second time violating the NFL's PED policy. Back in 2010, Cushing was hit with a four-game suspension after testing positive for a non-steroidal banned substance. If Cushing were to violate the policy again, he would be suspended for at least two years, according to NFL.com.
The only upside for the Texans here is that they were already planning to play at least one game without Cushing. The linebacker, who suffered a concussion during Houston's Week 1 loss to the Jaguars, had already been ruled out for Thursday's game in Cincinnati. The Texans got hit hard in the injury department during their 29-7 loss to Jacksonville with Cushing being one of five playes who suffered a concussion.
With Cushing out, the Texans are going to turn to a linebacker-by-committee to replace him with Texans rookies Dylan Cole and second-round draft pick Zach Cunningham getting most of the snaps, according to defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel.
"Everybody's going to play,'" Vrabel said, via the Houston Chronicle. "Zach will be in there. Dylan will be in there. I'm sure Brian Peters will play in the game, too. All hands are on deck."
As for Cushing, he's been a key part of the Texans' defense ever since 2009, when Houston selected him with the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft. Cushing has started in all 100 games that he's played in during his nine seasons with the team.